KUALA LUMPUR: Sexual transmissions have become the main mode of HIV infections in Malaysia for the past few years, instead of transmission among drug users, says health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
Most of the new infections were among young Malaysians aged between 20 and 39, making up 76% of HIV infections.
“The number of new HIV infections still hovers at the 3,000-case mark. In 2020, 3,146 new infections were reported or 9.3 per 100,000 population, 94% of which were due to sexual transmission.
“Another 4% was due to injecting drugs, and 1% each from mother to child transmission and other causes,” he said in his speech at the Red Ribbon Gala and Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award 2021, here tonight.
Khairy said stemming infections from sexual transmission was not impossible as Malaysia had successfully halted the rise of cases through injections in the early phase of the HIV epidemic.
“The needle-syringe exchange programme and methadone replacement therapy in 2006 resulted in a significant reduction in infections by more than half in just eight years. The effective preventive measures are there.
“Appropriate sexual and reproductive health education are important and need to be taught to our young population. Testing, especially HIV self-tests, should be encouraged and treatment must be initiated without delay,” he said.
Also present were Malaysian Aids Foundation (MAF) chairman Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, MAF patron Marina Mahathir and Sunway Group’s founder and chairman Jeffrey Cheah.
Noting the Covid-19 pandemic, he said the government had taken up the lion’s share for the cost of managing HIV or AIDS response.
“In 2020, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, we spent nearly RM100 million on AIDS response – mostly on treatment and prevention work, including harm reduction – which we carry out with civil society partners under the Malaysian AIDS Council,” he said.
Khairy stressed that a multi-pronged approach is needed to help those living with HIV as it affects every aspect of human life.
“The stigma and discrimination comes with the disease, and those who are living or affected by it must survive not only the virus but society’s negative perception.
“So we need to play a part. We need to move away from discriminatory and judgmental remarks,” he said.
This year’s Sunway-MAF Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Award went to Dr Mahani Nordin, an AIDS officer at the Terengganu health department, who has led the way beyond her call of duty to sustain the local communities response to HIV and AIDS.